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Scientists and physicians versus the central conspiracy theory of science denial

Dr. Ashish Jha has led other scientists into the fray against COVID-19 pseudoscience and deserves a lot of praise for that. However, to be more effective, he and his colleagues need to understand the critical role of conspiracy theories in science denial.

COVID-19 has been with us now for over a year now, having emerged in China around this time last year as a mysterious and severe new respiratory disease, from there to spread to the rest of the world and be declared a pandemic around nine months ago, along the way spawning an incredible number of conspiracy theories. Since then, it has ravaged the world, particularly the US, where as I write this the number of people known to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, recently surpassed 15 million (it’s likely much higher, given the lack of testing early on after the pandemic hit the US), while the death toll from this coronavirus is over 280K and climbing rapidly—and also likely much higher.

For all the carnage in my home country, much of which (although certainly not all) would likely have been preventable with a more competent response to the pandemic from our federal government, there have been two potentially useful developments from the pandemic, at least from a science communication viewpoint. First, the weakness of our dedication to science- and evidence-based medicine has been revealed for all to see. The example of hydroxychloroquine, which was touted as a near-miracle cure for COVID-19 and adopted without good evidence by physicians, politicians, pundits, grifters, and even President Donald Trump (but I repeat myself with those last two), is a perfect example. Second, the flood of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and the alliance of the antivaccine movement with the anti-“lockdown”/antimask COVID-19 denial/minimizing movement has slapped a lot of very prominent physicians who had labored in blissful ignorance of these tendencies right in the face and motivated them to want to combat it, for example, Dr. Ashish Jha, a prominent physician and researcher, as well as Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Unfortunately, he ignores the role of what I will call the central conspiracy theory of science denial.

Let me just to say right here that my purpose is not to pick on Dr. Jha. Far from it! I welcome him to our club of “quackbusters,” as we can always use new voices, particularly prominent ones with a lot of connections. However, I am going to use him as an example of the naïveté that I see in so many physicians advocating for science- and evidence-based medicine in the face of the disinformation campaigns against science that have arisen with a vengeance during the pandemic. All such science denial campaigns spreading disinformation are rooted in conspiracy theories. In the case of antivaccine disinformation, I once used the term “central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement” to describe what I mean. In brief, that conspiracy theory claims that the evidence that vaccines cause autism and all sorts of harm exists but that “they” (the government, the medical profession, big pharma, etc.) are covering it up. I now generalize this to describe the central conspiracy theory of science denialism, which is basically the same thing: The reason that science does not accept the science denialists’ views about science is not because the science denialist is wrong, but because “they” are covering up the evidence for that view! I’ll discuss this more near the end, but for now let me just say that scientists like Dr Jha will always be at a huge disadvantage until they understand this concept. (Even if they do understand the concept, they’ll still be at a disadvantage, just not as profound.)

Scientists miss the central conspiracy theory

Here’s what I mean. Last month, Dr. Jha wrote an essay for the New York Times entitled The Snake-Oil Salesmen of the Senate, in which he described his experience testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Of note, the chair of this particular committee is Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), whom we’ve met before in the context of his promotion of the deceptive and harmful federal right-to-try law.) Dr. Jha thought that the hearing would be about “promising emerging therapies or what Congress might do to accelerate such treatments” for COVID-19, but what it turned out to be about was mainly hydroxychloroquine, leading him to express amazement and dismay. Three academics, one of whom we’ve encountered before (Harvey Risch, who, like Didier Raoult in France and so many grifters in the US and the rest of the world, has been promoting the drug for COVID-19), promotes hydroxychloroquine far beyond what the evidence supports, while Dr. Jha was the lone voice of skepticism. He was blindsided:

In the hearing, I was called “reckless” because I pointed to facts that could prevent people from getting this treatment. The evidence itself, they seemed to be arguing, was the misinformation.

Our fundamental disagreement was about whether we can trust science. Senator Johnson and his witnesses questioned the integrity of the medical community, suggesting scientists were part of some “deep state” conspiracy to deny Americans access to lifesaving therapies. We’ve heard this before — including from President Trump, who has accused doctors of inflating Covid-19 cases for profit.

And:

The hearing was amplified by right-wing bloggers and social media celebrities, who accused Democrats and me (I was summoned to testify by the committee’s Democratic ranking member) of being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. People called for me to be fired and brought to justice.

It was a powerful reminder that not even Congress is immune to toxic conspiracy theories about doctors being in cahoots with government regulators to deny Americans lifesaving therapies.

I can only be amazed that Dr. Jha was apparently unaware that especially Congress is prone to toxic conspiracy theories.

On Twitter, a number of people, myself included, tried to gently suggest to Dr. Jha that he should not have been surprised. If he’d had any familiarity with antiscience movements he would have known to expect this, for example, Mark Hoofnagle:

For those of you not familiar with the five tactics of denialism (taken from Skeptical Science but originally proposed by Mark and Chris Hoofnagle and also listed in a famous paper by Diethelm and McKee in 2009), they are:

  • Conspiracy theories. When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes something is true, the denialist won’t admit scientists have independently studied the evidence to reach the same conclusion. Instead, they claim scientists are engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. Like Dr. Hoofnagle, I’ve now come to the conclusion that conspiracy theories are at the heart of all science denial. To me, the remaining characteristics in this list are more tactics of science denial rather than characteristics, but it is very important for science communicators to be aware of these tactics.
  • Fake experts. These are individuals purporting to be experts but whose views are inconsistent with established knowledge, and their use is a favored tactic of science denialists. Fake experts have been used extensively by the tobacco industry who developed a strategy to recruit scientists who would counteract the growing evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. The tactic of elevating fake experts is often complemented by denigration of established experts as a means of discrediting their work. Tobacco denialists have frequently attacked Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, for his exposure of tobacco industry tactics, labelling his research ‘junk science.” Another target in another scientific discipline isvaccine scientist and outspoken defender of vaccine science Dr. Paul Offit, whom antivaxxers have labeled as “Dr. PrOffit,” and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called a “biostitute.”
  • Cherry picking. This tactic involves selectively drawing on isolated papers that challenge the consensus to the neglect of the broader body of research. An example is a paper describing intestinal abnormalities in 12 children with autism, which suggested a possible link with the MMR vaccine (yes, Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet paper from 1998). This has been used extensively by campaigners against immunization, even though 10 of the paper’s 13 authors subsequently retracted the suggestion of an association. There’s plenty of cherry picking going on among COVID-19 deniers/minimizers right now, particularly over hydroxychloroquine.
  • Impossible expectations of what science can deliver. The tobacco company Philip Morris tried to promote a new standard for the conduct of epidemiological studies. These stricter guidelines would have invalidated in one sweep a large body of research on the health effects of cigarettes.This particular tactic is a variant of the Nirvana fallacy (logical fallacies being the next tactic of denialists listed below), my favorite example of which is how antivaxxers dismiss any vaccine that is not 100% effective and 100% safe as, in essence, useless, toxic crap. This tactic has been particularly effective when wielded by COVID-19 deniers/minimizers, as there is a lot of uncertainty in a lot of COVID-19 science that can be exaggerated.
  • Misrepresentation and logical fallacies. This tactic is also a favorite of science denialists. Logical fallacies include the use of straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented, making it easier to refute. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 1992 that environmental tobacco smoke was carcinogenic. This was attacked as nothing less than a ‘threat to the very core of democratic values and democratic public policy’.

I’m sure regular readers of RI recognize all of these characteristics, as they have all at one time or another been discussed here. Interestingly, Diethelm and McKee also note a characteristic common among science denialists that I like to refer to as projection but that they refer to as inversionism:

There is also a variant of conspiracy theory, inversionism, in which some of one’s own characteristics and motivations are attributed to others. For example, tobacco companies describe academic research into the health effects of smoking as the product of an ‘anti-smoking industry’, described as ‘a vertically integrated, highly concentrated, oligopolistic cartel, combined with some public monopolies’ whose aim is to ‘manufacture alleged evidence, suggestive inferences linking smoking to various diseases and publicity and dissemination and advertising of these so-called findings to the widest possible public’.

Basically, in this subset of conspiracy theory, grifters assume that everyone else is a grifter too, and denialists promoting ideologically based narratives for profit think that everyone else is motivated by ideology and profit too.

Meanwhile, someone well known to many of you tried to explain that those of us who’ve been combatting the antivaccine movement have seen this movie many, many times before:

I know, I know, it’s lazy to quote a bunch of Tweets, but why not use them when they’ve already presented what I wanted to say in a way that I wanted to say it?

Basically, this is an issue that skeptics have dealt with dating back to long before I ever started identifying with the skeptic movement. In particular “quackbusters,” like Dr. Stephen Barrett, who was doing the sort of discussions of quackery and applying science-based medicine to deconstructing alternative and “integrative” medicine claims back when I was still in college, encountered this disdain.

Before the pandemic, there was very little incentive, other than interest in the topic and a passion to protect patients, for physicians to publicly combat misinformation, pseudoscience, and disinformation about medicine. It wasn’t rewarded academically. (Quite the contrary, in fact, a phenomenon that Carl Sagan used to bemoan about his public advocacy for science and skepticism in which academics actually showed active disdain or even contempt for such efforts.) In medicine, speaking out against quackery, antivaccine pseudoscience, and medical conspiracy theories is, in fact, can land a physician in a whole world of hurt. I won’t go into the sorts of hurt that my activities have brought my way other than to briefly mention how a cancer quack first tried to get me fired a mere six months after I had started blogging; antivaxxers launched phone and email campaign to my university ten years ago to try to get me disciplined or fired over a made-up “conflict of interest”; Mike Adams launched a full-on campaign of libel against me; and, until recently when Google tweaked its algorithms to deemphasize antivaccine sources in its search results, my Google reputation was utterly trashed by many attacks on my published by antivaxxers and quacks.

Since the pandemic, I’m not convinced that the balance of incentives versus disincentives of speaking out has changed. On the one hand, there is a huge incentive to push back against the flood of COVID-19 misinformation, given the scale of the death and misery caused by the pandemic and how public resistance to science-based public health interventions has contributed to that toll (the incentive having increased even more recently with the impending rollout of approved COVID-19 vaccines provoking a frenzy of antivaccine disinformation). On the other hand, countering that incentive is the disincentive that social media plus the sheer intensity of the antiscience disinformation campaign against COVID-19 science has produced, namely the harassment, attacks, and even threats of violence that have greeted those trying to stem the tide of the pandemic and misinformation about the pandemic. Public health officials have resigned, and in my own state anti-lockdown protesters openly carried weapons into the State Capitol Building in Lansing in May.

Supporting science is important, but…

I’m not going to dwell on that aspect, because what I’m interested in is scientists’ continuing blindspot with respect to conspiracy theories and science denialism. I’m not hear to pick on Dr. Jha, who should be praised for having the courage to speak out (although there will be some nitpicking because it’s unavoidable), but to use his articles and this statement as an example of what I mean:

First of all, I’m not sure why Dr. Jha expresses amazement that there are antivax doctors and doctors still hawking hydroxychloroquine despite the resounding evidence that it does not work to prevent or treat COVID-19. After all, I and many others have been discussing antivaccine doctors—even antivaccine pediatricians!—for a very long time now. Relatively few physicians, as I have pointed out, are actually scientists (nor do they need to be); more importantly, physicians are human and thus prone to the very same human cognitive quirks and shortcomings to which all humans are prone. In some ways, they’re even worse. I don’t have hard data to support my impression (which means that I have to admit right here that my opinion might be colored by confirmation bias). Even so, it seems to me that my fellow physicians, thanks to their education in science and medicine and coupled with their societal privilege, are, if anything, more prone to the arrogance that led them to think that their medical training means that they can just “pick up” other disciplines on their own and the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which they are not even aware of their lack of expertise on topics that they think they know well.

But let’s continue:

The statement by Dr. Jha and these academics was apparently the result of his experience in November, further in response to the announcement on Monday that antiscience crank Dr. Jane Orient was to be the “star witness” at another hearing of Sen. Johnson’s committee on COVID-19 vaccines and—again!—hydroxychloroquine. (I can’t help but note that I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that her organization, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, is also behind an astroturf effort to promote hydroxychloroquine.) Moreover, I can’t help but note that the hearing yesterday featured other COVID-19 denialists, including one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, the the eugenics-tinged “don’t worry, be happy” manifesto advocating that we allow the “young and healthy” to go on about their business because the risk to them is presumably so low while we somehow “protect” the vulnerable elderly an people with chronic health conditions that make them susceptible to severe COVID-19. Also included is an advocate of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 who uses exactly the same sorts of arguments that hydroxychloroquine cultists started using in March. (Damn. I really have to look into that drug now.)

Overall, the statement by Dr. Jha and colleagues is in general very good, at least as far as it goes. I say “as far as it goes” because the statement is incomplete and illustrates the very blindspot that I discussed. Let’s look at the good first:

The 1918 influenza pandemic powered a new era of modern science, discovery and approaches to public health, helping to build the scientific and public health community, which in subsequent years produced new tests for infection, medicines for treatment, vaccines to stop the spread, and more.

In contrast, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, despite having produced some notable scientific gains, has also fueled attacks on how we know what we know, raising doubts about the scientific process by which we generate facts, analyze data, and reach conclusions. We are facing a dangerous barrage of misinformation that ignores evidence and dismisses the scientific process, undermining our national response and belief in science.

It’s certainly hard to argue with that, although the 1918 pandemic produced a torrent of misinformation about science as well. It’s just that one hundred years ago we didn’t have social media to amplify it, the way we do now.

After noting that the evidence has quite convincingly shown that hydroxychloroquine does not work to prevent or treat COVID-19 but that false information continues to fuel farces like Sen. Johnson’s committee hearings and patients demanding the drug despite the lack of evidence and thereby producing shortages for people who actually need it, the statement goes on to say:

We cannot allow groups and individuals pushing unproven treatments to threaten the progress we have made in medical science, including the fundamental commitment to accepting scientific data as the basis for clinical decision making and public health.

Scientific evidence must continue to be the fundamental force driving progress in medical care, even during a pandemic. Scientific evidence is not the experience or intuition of one physician, or even a collection of individual experiences. Rather, it emerges from the concerted work of thousands of clinicians and scientists conducting research as they treat patients, using clear, reliable methods that minimize bias, analyzing facts and data in a rigorous way, and using standardized tools to verify findings. We are part of a medical and scientific community committed to holding each other accountable. That means calling out unfounded conclusions and poorly executed research. It means recognizing the knowledge and expertise of professional organizations of doctors, such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America or the American Association of Family Physicians, and of our key public health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration. These professional societies and agencies use their expertise to help develop and interpret what constitutes reliable evidence and we believe that following their guidance, not simply those who have been provided a pulpit, is critical.

Bypassing the scientific process to endorse unfounded therapies ignores a century’s worth of medical progress.  In advance of the December 8 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the undersigned physicians and scientists declare their commitment to the scientific process and the transparency and accountability that sustains and powers that progress.

There’s very little for a skeptic to argue with here, and maybe political considerations kept Dr. Jha and his colleagues from going into the conspiracy theories, but this statement is, as I have pointed out, incomplete. Why is it incomplete? It’s for the same reasons that I mentioned above, but I’ll be more specific. It does not address, except obliquely, the central role of conspiracy theories in science denialism or what I now like to call the central conspiracy theory of science denial.

The central conspiracy theory of science denial beats evidence (usually)

Physicians and scientists who’ve joined the fray against COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation have, like Dr. Jha, often been startled to have been slapped in the face with science denial and the alliance that rapidly formed between antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks that ultimately expanded to include even QAnon. For Dr. Jha, it took the form of shock at having been included as the “token skeptic” testifying in front of Sen. Johnson’s committee alongside three hydroxychloroquine cranks and alarm that Sen. Johnson repeated the same playbook to include an antivaxxer and all around science denier like Dr. Orient as the “star witness” at a second hearing yesterday. Many, like Dr. Jha and colleagues, labor under the delusion, expressed in their statement quoted above, that good information will chase out bad and the faith in science as the tool that will ultimately deliver us from the pandemic. They believe that the drive to bypass science and clinical trials in the case of, for example, hydroxychloroquine, is rooted more in misunderstanding of the scientific method than in ideology and conspiracy theories.

They are sadly mistaken.

Think about all the major “flavors” of science denialism and then think about the central conspiracy theory of science denial and how it applies. Here are just a few examples:

  • Climate science denial. Here, the idea is that the climate science consensus that has concluded from mountains of evidence that human activity is having a what could potentially be a catastrophic impact on the earth’s climate, resulting in warming that could endanger life on earth, is a liberal hoax or conspiracy designed to impose draconian controls on industry. Evidence against global warming is “suppressed” by ideologically driven climate scientists in order to protect that sweet, sweet grant gravy train, while “liberals” don’t want the “truth” to be known because it would endanger their control. In other words, “they” don’t want you to know the truth.
  • Antivaccine. Antivaxxers believe that vaccines cause autism and all sorts of diseases (even death!) but you don’t know it because “they” don’t want you to and cover up evidence showing that vaccines don’t work and cause harm, the “they” being the CDC, physicians, big pharma, the FDA, and the government in general, all to protect the sweet, sweet profits from vaccines and/or to impose control. (Examples of this “central conspiracy theory” include the Simpsonwood conspiracy theory popularized by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in 2005 and the CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory promoted in Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree’s conspiracyfest disguised as a documentary, VAXXED.) In other words, “they” don’t want you to know the truth.
  • HIV/AIDS denial. HIV/AIDS denialists believe that HIV does not cause AIDS but you don’t know it because “they” don’t want you to and cover up the evidence that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS and that drug cocktails are useless. Why? Ideology and, of course, the desire to continue the sweet, sweet profits from AIDS drugs rolling. In other words, “they” don’t want you to know the truth.
  • Creationism. Creationists, be they “young earth” creationists or “intelligent design” creationists do not believe that evolution explains the diversity of life on earth and that there must have been the intervention of a “higher power” (translation: God). Evidence against evolution is “covered up” because a cabal of atheist Darwinists want to deny God and thus undermine religion. (This is one of the few forms of science denial where the profit motive is not ascribed as much to scientists as it is by other forms, although the desire for power and control by “atheists” does figure prominently.) In other words, “they” don’t want you to know the truth.
  • COVID-19 deniers/minimizers/antimaskers/anti-“lockdown” activists. COVID-19 deniers tend to believe that COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as portrayed, often likening it to “no worse than the flu.” (If that’s the case, then why did COVID-19 surpass heart disease as the number one cause of death in the US for last week? Does the flu do that routinely? I don’t think so.) Thus, because COVID-19 is “not deadly” to any but the old and infirm (an aspect that’s really inspired antivaxxers and COVID-19 deniers let their eugenics freak flag fly high), then lockdowns, masks, and social distancing are unnecessary (and don’t work anyway), nor is the rush to develop COVID-19 vaccines (which are dangerous anyway). The reason you don’t know this is that “they” don’t want you to because “they” want to control you (and get those sweet, sweet COVID-19 vaccine profits flowing). In other words, “they” don’t want you to know the truth.

At its heart, all science denial involves conspiracy theories about hidden knowledge revealed to the few, conveniently enough those who believe in the conspiracy theory. Such conspiracy theories give the believer a feeling of power, as though they have knowledge that few others do and that they are the victims of the conspiracy. It’s not just science denial, either. I can’t help but briefly mention here that 9/11 Truthers and Holocaust deniers also claim that the reason their conspiracy theories are not accepted is that “they” cover up the evidence against (and manufacture evidence for) the “standard” narratives. Truly, denialism is a form of conspiracy theory.

Once you know that denial of science is rooted in conspiracy theory and ideology, then the tactics of denial are much less remarkable, as are the necessary responses. As Mark Hoofnagle put it:

So, what are physicians, scientists, and lay skeptics to do? Discuss the science, yes. Refute the misinformation, yes. Emphasize the scientific method, of course. However, what Dr. Jha and his colleagues appear not to understand is that that is not nearly enough. These are all necessary, but not sufficient, responses to disinformation. Yes, you can laugh at the ridiculousness of some COVID-19 conspiracy theories (“elites” conspiring with aliens to depopulate the world, anyone?), but conspiracy theories have power. Conspiracy theories inspire motivated reasoning, in which believers work very hard to find evidence that supports their preexisting beliefs and to attack evidence that does not. Only by understanding the conspiracy theories at the heart of all denial of science and medicine can physicians and scientists engaged in science communication begin to craft responses.

To win, scientists need to understand the central conspiracy theory of science denial

I’ve written before about the centrality of conspiracy theories in the denial of science-based medicine and public health, having alluded to the elements of a good conspiracy theory before in discussing why COVID-19 conspiracy theories are so attractive. First and foremost, conspiracy theories are about secret or hidden knowledge, knowledge that only the believers in the conspiracy theory possess, knowledge to which the average person not accepting the conspiracy theory is not privy. Holding such knowledge makes the believer feel special, superior, greater than all the “sheeple” out there who do not hold the conspiracy theory. Whether the conspiracy theory is Q, antivaccine pseudoscience, belief that there is a cure for cancer but “they” are keeping it from the people, the believer is special.

The believer is also simultaneously a victim of persecution and a hero. One element common to the most attractive conspiracy theories is that something is very, very wrong with the world and that it is not an accident that this something is so wrong. Rather, it’s wrong intentionally, usually as the result of a dark conspiracy of powerful forces that is causing the wrong and hiding its involvement. Naturally, the believer perceives himself to be a victim of this “wrongness,” and his “waking up” to his victimhood and deciding to fight against it lets him claim the mantle of hero. These elements of the conspiracy theory also make the believer feel special and heroic, because not only is he privy to secret knowledge, but he is now a warrior fighting against these dark forces to reverse his victimization by trying to make the knowledge more public and alerting others to the conspiracy. Conspiracy theories are thus attractive because they are an antidote to a feeling of powerlessness, explain unlikely events (such as 9/11) and even some not-so-unlikely events (e.g., the coronavirus pandemic, some variant of which has been predicted for nearly two decades since the SARS epidemic in 2002), and coping with threats.

It’s thus no wonder that many, if not most, conspiracy theories are ultimately hopeful. They almost always come to the present with “the people” finally “waking up” to the danger and, with the help of the conspiracy theorists spreading the “true” information about the conspiracy, “rising up” to throw off the shackles of their oppressors. We see this in antivaccine conspiracy theories, in which “They” (the CDC, Big Pharma, the medical profession) are finally taken to account for the “misdeeds” of which they’re accused. We see it in Q, bigtime, with Q’s “prophecies” leading patriots to rise up against the deep state or whatever else is the threat at the time. We see it in cancer conspiracy theories in which the “people” are waking up to, for example, “natural cures” for cancer (which are, of course, suppressed by the “cancer industry”) that don’t involve the toxicity of conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook published an excellent short e-book on recognizing conspiracy theories and countering conspiratorial thinking, The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. They note that, of course, actual conspiracies do exist, but hasten to add that such real conspiracies are not discovered by the methods of conspiracy theorists, but rather through conventional science, skepticism, and investigation. I’ve discussed the characteristics of conspiracy theories before in depth (go here for the long version), but, boiled down to their essence, they can be remembered through Lewandowsky and Cook’s mnemonic CONSPIR:

  • Contradictory.
  • Overriding suspicion.
  • Nefarious intent.
  • Something must be wrong.
  • Persecuted victim.
  • Immune to evidence.
  • Re-interpreting randomness.

I’ve also discussed how to respond to conspiracy theories before, emphasizing that simply emphasizing the science, showing the flaws in the pseudoscience and bad science used to support such conspiracy theories isn’t enough. What I’m about to write is very similar to what I’ve written before (some of it word-for-word the same), but I thought it important to repeat it, rather than just link to my previous writings.

Lewandowski and Cook conclude with a number of strategies to respond to conspiratorial thinking. Regular readers are likely familiar with debunking, which can be fact-based, logic-based, source-based, or based on fact checking. Obviously, I try to do a combination of some or all of these, although I like to note that my writing is not aimed at the hard-core conspiracy theorists themselves. (The likelihood of changing the mind of a hard-core conspiracy theory believer is low to non-existent. If you’re lucky you might plant a seed or two that might germinate later, but only at the cost of a lot of effort.) Rather, it is better to inoculate those susceptible to conspiracy theories with the knowledge about the nature of conspiracy theories and other information that will make them less susceptible to a conspiracy theory, plus, when appropriate, knowledge of the relevant science. It is in this vein that I really like Lewandowski and Cook’s concept of “pre-bunking” in addition to debunking:

If people are preemptively made aware that they might be misled, they can develop resilience to conspiratorial messages. This process is known as inoculation or prebunking. There are two elements to an inoculation: an explicit warning of an impending threat of being misled, and refutation of the misinformation’s arguments. Prebunkings of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories have been found to be more effective than debunking.

Fact-based and logic-based inoculations have both been successful in prebunking a 9/11 conspiracy. This indicates some promise in logic- based prebunking, given the seven tell-tale traits of conspiratorial thinking (remember CONSPIR?). If people are made aware of the flawed reasoning found in conspiracy theories, they may become less vulnerable to such theories.

Most importantly, people need to be empowered against misinformation and disinformation:

Conspiracy thinking is associated with feelings of reduced control and perceived threat. When people feel like they have lost control of a situation, their conspiracist tendencies increase. But the opposite also applies. When people feel empowered, they are more resilient to conspiracy theories.

There are several ways to “cognitively empower” people, such as encouraging them to think analytically rather than relying on intuition. If people’s sense of control is primed (e.g., by recalling an event from their lives that they had control over), then they are less likely to endorse conspiracy theories. Citizens’ general feeling of empowerment can be instilled by ensuring that societal decisions, for example by government, are perceived to follow procedural justice principles. Procedural justice is perceived when authorities are believed to use fair decision-making procedures. People accept unfavourable outcomes from a decision if they believe that procedural fairness has been followed.

Finally, here’s one very important aspect of disinformation rooted in conspiracy theories that Dr. Jha and his colleagues fail to address. A lot of disinformation is tactical. In other words, the origin of a lot of disinformation is not genuinely held erroneous beliefs, but rather an intentional campaign of disinformation designed to produce an ideological or profit-motivated end. Climate science denial is likely the most important example of a tactical conspiracy theory designed to promote a political/ideological viewpoint by casting doubt on a strong scientific consensus, but it’s far from the only one. Indeed, among COVID-19 conspiracy theories, anti-“lockdown” disinformation is definitely tactical as well, being designed to cast doubt on the utility of measures to combat the pandemic that are perceived to harm business, empower government, or otherwise interfere with individual “freedom.”

It’s also always important never to discount the role of grift as a motive for spreading disinformation. You’ll rarely go wrong looking for the financial angle behind a piece of disinformation being spread. Just look at all the antivaxxers and COVID-19 deniers/minimizers whose main or side hustle is to sell “natural” treatments or preventatives for vaccine-preventable disease and/or COVID-19, for example. Even the least profit-motivated science denial, creationism, has its grifters. Also, be aware that, sometimes, the “profit” motive is nothing more than a desire for fame and attention that can be achieved through media outlets of a certain ideological bent, as we have seen with doctors pushing bad COVID-19 epidemiology (although they were promoting their urgent care center business too).

As Lewandowski and Cook emphasize, while logical incoherence is one attribute of conspiratorial thinking, that doesn’t mean that all—or even most—conspiracy theories are irrational. Denialist rhetoric is very effective at casting doubt on specific science that conflicts with one’s ideology, which is one reason why it can be so difficult to combat these conspiracy theories. Moreover, as Dr. Hoofnagle has emphasized, if science communicators go into a forum like Sen. Johnson’s committee meetings unaware of the power of conspiracy theories and without strategies to prebunk them, they will always be at such a massive disadvantage as to have minimal chance of being effective. Basically, too many scientists brave enough to walk into the lions’ den are bringing a knife to a gunfight. No, strike that. Too many are bringing nothing but their fists to tank battle.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that Dr. Jha and his fellow signatories to his statement want to combat science misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and treatments for it while promoting the scientific method as the best means of getting us out of this pandemic and hope that I didn’t come across as overly critical. It’s just that his article and statement are perfect examples of how academic physicians and scientists tend to miss the forest for the trees when they first encounter science denial of the sort that Dr. Jha has been combatting online, and, reading them, I had to use them as such. I hope they will all consider this constructive criticism from me, along with a hearty, “Welcome aboard!” I also hope that, when the pandemic is finally over and life returns to something resembling pre-pandemic “normal,” all or at least some of these newbies will stick around and continue to combat dangerous pseudoscience and disinformation. I’m sure there will continue to be a lot of it for many years to come.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

122 replies on “Scientists and physicians versus the central conspiracy theory of science denial”

A friend of mine is a huge true crime buff, and recently recommended some stuff to me on the Satanic Panic of the 80s and early 90s. It’s downright eerie seeing the same type of arguments playing out there that we see with science denial.

Conspiracies are necessary because if their “truth” were known, it would ( according to them) transform science, and shift paradigms rather than languishing in pay-for-play journals and woo-fraught websites: If only nefarious forces did not intervene! Few of them are well known or even educated in the fields they critique though..
Secret knowledge** is their key to attract audiences: they know the ‘absolute truth’ which is hidden from the rest of humanity thus illustrating their grandiose self-concept well. Usually though, they aren’t able to show these secret conversations or arcane data which if ever revealed, seem to be rather lacking in substance ( Whistle Blower, RFK jr Simpsonwood).

So how do these mavericks react to sceptics’ revelations about them? They accuse us of being compromised, paid off, criminal or mentally ill- part of the Grand Plot. We hear it at PRN and read it at NN, AoA, Del’s place or even here by trolls. Despite the fact that they have no evidence AT ALL because it’s never about evidence, it’s about feelings. Intuition, uncontrolled observation, personal report and second hand knowledge. Yet they call SBM research “biased” : it is, biased by data.

I have a hundred examples but I’m sure you can imagine. Just look at RI for examples of how denialism works ( see Orac’s Troll Farm)

** secret data dumps, late night messages, anonymous phone calls, notes from dead people, black op agents confessing of their roles ruining reputations etc.

We might repeatedly point out that ‘tactical’ disinformation can be motivated by seeking profit, fame or larger audiences.
Those who sneer at Wikipedia’s ‘agenda’ against them usually have something to sell: products, ideas or themselves.

Look at websites’ “stores” or links to their “charities” that often pay their salaries

Yeah, I had similar feelings about Jha’s NYT piece. He was ambushed, and anyone who has been in the creationism and GMO “debate” world would recognize what was about to happen. And when you are up against the active misinformers, you have to expose them for what they are.

These are not just confused parents–these are active, grifting, dedicated, supported and funded disinformation agents. There’s a difference. And the strategy is not the same.

That said, I do think that seeing so many new people who have had to be on the misinformation front lines will have long term benefits. They’ll learn from this. That is what happened in the anti-GMO ballot campaigns. Many previously inactive participants in the debate saw the consequences and harm finally coming to roost. And they began to take a more active and ongoing role in outreach and public facing challenges to nonsense peddlers. I think it did turn things in the right direction, in the long run.

I feel that way too, which is why I made it a point to say that I hope the newbies stick around after the pandemic abates, but the short term is going to be ugly for them and they’re going to learn some hard lessons that could be less painful if they’d consult those of us who’ve been at this a while. My guess is that they probably won’t.

From the pamphlet: “Avoid ridicule”.

There goes my entire raison d’etre. So sad.

“Note, however, that ridicule has been shown to work with general audiences.”

Oh wait, I’ve been vindicated. Happy again.

Now I can get back to digging into the truth behind the 200 mpg carburetor covered up by Big Carbon for decades. Big Battery is also implicated in the conspiracy.

Lewandowsky and Cook must have mucked through some of the worst conspiracy hives to develop their handbook. I can’t share their enthusiasm (of which I have none) for their section “how to talk to a conspiracy theorist”. When I’d run into one in clinic (as some child’s parent) I’ve learned the hard way to politely stop any debate (usually over vaccines or germ theory), get what I can done done for the child (usually not much) and move on to the next patient. That conspiracy theories flourish during times of fear and uncertainty sure rings true for 2020. Pre bunking reminds me of the ring theory of vaccination but with the caveat the it’s a lot easier to identify likely close contacts for infectious disease spread than where Mike Adams is going to land his next 1,000 dupes. The sad state of education, especially science education in the US (compared to many other countries) contributes to the rise of the conspiracy theorist in 2020 as well. Critical thinking either isn’t being taught or learned.

So many deaths from COVID-19 that didn’t need to happen thanks to conspiracy theorists. They don’t care about it, either.

Hope those physicians and scientists joining this mission heed your advice.

I had an inpatient newborn recently whose mother made it known to everyone who would listen that she “was in healthcare.” She turned out to be a scrub tech or something, devoid even of an associates degree. Kiddo got vitamin K and erythromycin smear but mom adamantly refused the first hep B. “I don’t have blood borne diseases and my husband doesn’t either, why would we give that to our baby?” I didn’t possess the energy that morning to argue with her “I know so much because I’m in healthcare and have Google” b*llshit. I was too busy figuring out what kind of liability we were about to incur discharging them into the “care” of a naturopath.

I had to move on to the PICU and beyond, all loaded with COVID cases. These people want attention and some pathetic thrill that they stood up to some kind of authority. I’ve stopped giving it to them. I’m there to help people not deal with idiots who want to claim even intellectual and experiential ground with me without doing the heavy lifting it took to get here.

Now…back to the “why are we giving all covid pts melatonin?” committee discussion.

“I’m there to help people not deal with idiots who want to claim even intellectual and experiential ground with me without doing the heavy lifting it took to get here.”

This is an interesting one: the use of Google U and all the rest seems to be a way of trying to circumvent the reality of how much and for how long one needs to study in order to understand pretty much all current science and a load of clinical stuff (retired nurse with science degree not related to professional area here). FFS, late in my career my management tried to replace me with someone newly qualified wh ostood no chance at all of doing most of what I did, using knowledge, expereience and skille learned over a couple of decades. But the myth exists that one can learn all these complex things overnight.

The time, the effort and the hard yards are necessary to understand many things; there are no sodding shortcuts, however much many folk want to believe there are

@MedicalYeti “I don’t have blood borne diseases and my husband doesn’t either, why would we give that to our baby?” It’s a good question that doesn’t have a particularly good answer in my opinion. That might be why you find responding to parents who decline it tiresome. It’s hard to argue for compliance without a good answer to that question.

But there is an answer to this. Which is that adults may well not know if they’re infected with hepatitis B unless they have very recently been tested. Either she or her husband may be positive at that point, and not aware of it. Most adults with hepatitis B are asymptomatic. It’s rare, but it happens, and the baby is at high risk, if exposed, of getting chronic hepatitis B, which is very dangerous.

It’s not that there isn’t an answer. It’s just that even healthcare workers get tired.

@Beth: Because other adult caregivers (like grandparents) may not have been tested. The rates of all forms of Hep are high in the 60+ age group (due to lack of testing in the past).

Because children bite, and young children are more susceptible to HepB and more likely to develop the chronic form that can cause liver cancer. As a toddler I once (and only once) bit my grandmother until she bled. That would be an effective way to transmit HepB.

@Dorit – That’s an answer I’ve heard before: the assumption that the parents (or other household members) are unknowing asymptomatic carriers of the disease. It’s not a good answer. The parents could know their status and be quite confident they don’t have it. For example, if they are regular blood donors, they are tested for that disease every time they donate blood and would be informed if they had tested positive. We could just as easily make that assumption about other vaccine preventable diseases that are more easily transmitted between household members, but we don’t. I don’t think any other countries recommend Hep B universally for newborns rather than when there is a known risk due to such a situation.

A. You can’t donate blood when pregnant. And you’re reaching to an extremely rare situation.

B. Israel, Austria and Portugal are examples of other countries that offer hepatitis B at birth. Not the only ones.

You can’t reject answers based on incorrect facts. The explanation above is the simple one.

Your claim was that there was no good answer. There is one that’s generally offered, even if you don’t like it. It’s not that the healthcare worker didn’t have an answer. Sometimes people are tired.

@Beth, a large number of people who catch Hep B have no idea how they caught it. Hep B can survive outside the body for up to a week. It is far easier than you think to catch it.
Also, I googled. Many countries give Hep b to newborns as part of their schedule.

@Dorit Yes, there are answers, just not particularly good ones. While pregnant women can’t donate blood, they can be tested. And if they didn’t have Hep B prior to getting pregnant and they haven’t indulged in behavior that might put them at risk, there’s no reason to assume that they are unknowing asymptomatic carriers of the disease. That is indeed reaching for a rare situation. Not having an answer that parents find convincing is tiring indeed.

@ JustaTech If other adult caregivers are involved then yes, that should be a consideration. We were discussing newborns, who aren’t going to contact a blood born disease through biting others.

Kiddo got vitamin K and erythromycin smear but mom adamantly refused the first hep B. “I don’t have blood borne diseases and my husband doesn’t either, why would we give that to our baby?”

I adamtly refused the hep B for my daughter on the day of her birth as doctor after doctor came in to persuade me otherwise. What I did not know was that the mother was a gutter slut and that the concern was justified.

@Murmur: I had someone tell me that she didn’t need to have studied biology to be able to read & “do research” about viruses, & that if I didn’t agree with her pov on covid then clearly my PhD is useful only as toilet paper. She then went on to show that she had absolutely no idea about viruses, let alone vaccines.

I had to laugh.

I think it is really important to remember that evidence does not change the views of the committed believer. Just look at all the Trump followers who continue to believe that hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes were counted in the election and the courts will fix this. No amount of lawsuits being thrown out of court has affected their belief one bit.

Arguing with committed believers is of no value, unless there are other people to hear the evidence. The people we need to reach are the bystanders who may get sucked into the anti-science whirlpool. This is where pre-bunking works. Pointing out why the conspiracy theories have no evidence before they start to believe them. Vaccinating them against bulldust.

It is why often I will only engage with the conspiracy theorists for a short time. There is no need to debunk every claim they make, readers will move past that quickly. Take one or two claims, show how they are false and then leave the reader to work from there.

Was sent this by a buddy of mine
” Just wait until conspiracy theorists discover that they are part of a conspiracy to use conspiracy theorists to spread disinformation via conspiracy theories”

@ Orac,

Please…I paid generously to receive the shingles vaccine last week. As a reward, can you kindly release MJD from RI auto-moderation?

MJD, your reward is to not be blinded by shingles. Isn’t that enough?

Besides, you shouldn’t be making medical decisions based on what you think our Gracious Host might want, but on what your own doctor recommends for you based on the science.

Haven’t you promised or claimed you would stop whining about this some time ago, or was it that you would stop whining and begging for a guest post? Actually, there has been a path to your goal all along, but your have not seen it, which really evidences quite a bit about your perseveration. But I repeat myself.

Lewandowski and Cook: “If people are made aware of the flawed reasoning found in conspiracy theories, they may become less vulnerable to such theories.
Most importantly, people need to be empowered against misinformation and disinformation…
There are several ways to “cognitively empower” people, such as encouraging them to think analytically rather than relying on intuition.”

There’s nothing wrong with this advice; it’s just too late in the game to get through to most of these people.

What needs to be done most is teaching thinking skills to schoolchildren early on, as a means of inoculating them against falling into the trap of conspiracy theories. It’ll require a dedicated curriculum, difficult to institute because all the other stuff educators want to teach crowds out critical thinking skills. Also expect hostility from politicians and parents who won’t be happy if kids become good at spotting adults’ defective thinking.

Other strategies – debunking falsehoods, instilling respect for expert knowledge, going on the attack against con artists who promote pseudoscience and conspiracies for power, attention and financial benefit – that’s fine. But until you get people to think rationally, all too often you’re just treading water, losing ground whenever times get really tough and the blame game becomes especially attractive.

Much to my embarrassment, at one point I subscribed to a moonbat-flavoured version of 9/11 trutherism, one that posited that the US government knew that the attacks were coming, but they let it happen on purpose for their political gain. But as time went on and the subsequent incompetence of the Bush administration, in conducting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, etc., became more and more obvious, the idea became impossible to sustain. If they were such evil geniuses that they could maintain such a secret for so long, how could they later so badly screw up the wars they so wanted? I never could maintain the levels of doublethink required to be a real hardcore conspiracy theorist. Cognitive dissonance got me in the end. That is probably one of the few chinks in the armour that protects the conspiracy theorist from the truth. I have no idea if it can be profitably exploited.

I think we’ve all been there. I was absolutely certain UFOs existed when I was younger and that the government was covering it up. Then I served seven years between active duty counterintelligence and with agencies that shall not be named and saw just how horrible we are at keeping secrets and effecting actual clandestine action!! hahahaha

Another thing.

That odd-looking photo of Andrew Wakefield seen in Dr. Gorski’s Twitter post and elsewhere online – the one showing Wakefield with pronounced bags under his eyes and the early stages of ghastly deathbed pallor – it’s always reminded me of someone else, but until now I couldn’t make the connection.

Wakefield:

https://twitter.com/gorskon/status/1169961077074997248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1336330191426109448%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es4_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Frespectfulinsolence.com%2F2020%2F12%2F09%2Fscientists-versus-central-conspiracy-theory-of-science-denial%2F

Vincent Price as the Abominable Dr. Phibes:

https://images.app.goo.gl/wQ1ZGK2ugxUFPexx6

Separated at birth…or death?

Why bother? People like to be fooled and they hate facts. So why not just go on lock down. Lock down the museums, libraries and colleges, don’t bother to give out information unless it’s to specifically vetted people, and gradually shut the public out. People don’t value information because it’s too easily obtainable. So hide it. They don’t care anyway. Figure out how to function independently of politics; and at some points, in active opposition to political figures. That’s the only way science wins.

Prove you are the original “politicalguineapig” by calling me by your assigned name for me, Dimbulb. If you fail, I’ll let you beat me with your bo.

Also, supposed PgP, you were right. Trump did “wreck everything” and is smashing all that he can on the way out. RIP, FCC.

As you point out, debunking is its own expertise. And the fact that people used to drawing on expertise in other areas don’t reach for it here but just keep as they were is as much a mistake as if they went into another field out of their expertise without studying the terrain, or consulting an expert, or ideally both.

Sigh.

I’m not sure this is exactly on point, but it’s certainly adjacent. Today, both Amanda Marcotte at Salon and Fred Clark at Slacktivist argue that various sorts of conspiratorial advocacy are mostly performances of tribal identity.

Marcotte: “By and large, Republican voters who claim that Biden stole the election are arguing from bad faith, not delusion.” She suggests that the same is true of birtherism and climate change denial.

Clark, describing a confrontation with a belligerent anti-masker:

…this man’s literally and figuratively un-masked remarks all seemed directed to gauge whether or not his fellow middle-aged white male was “in on it.” I mean this in the actual sense of “in on it,” rather than the conspiratorial meaning employed by conspiracists. When conspiracists accuse someone of being “in on it,” what they actually mean is that person is, disappointingly, not “in on it” — that they have not accepted the bounds and the rules of the game they know themselves to be playing. (This is true of conspiracism and of just plain racism too.)

Sweet reason just doesn’t cut in in these situations. Critical thinking is entirely beside the point.

It might be worthwhile to examine the distinction between performative tribal beliefs and, for want of a better phrase, cult-like beliefs.

The latter are those described by Orac and the Hoofnagles; they’re relatively non-partisan, deeply held, semi-consistent, in some respects traditional, and their adherents act as though their beliefs are true, often to their detriment. It’s tough to dig them out of their holes.

The former are reliably partisan, highly variable, even fashionable, and even the most militant don’t go further than heavily armed cosplay. They don’t act, as Fred Clark relentless points out, as though abortion is murder or that Radical-Liberal-Socialist-Communist-Democratic-pedophile-elites are actually dosing themselves with tormented babies’ hormones. The point of imagining such extravagant evils is to allow the believers to exult in their (comparative) virtue.

Such views, so contingently held, are apt to evaporate, like opposition to gay marriage or legalization of marijuana. Perhaps even evangelicals will soon get religion about wearing masks and distancing. You can’t reason someone out of a position they weren’t reasoned into, but they can let themselves out rather easily.

Every conspiracy theory has some truth in its story. and every one believes in some conspiracy theorys, Heck even Orac believes in some big anti vaxxer conpiracy with some secret organization running the campagin.

Project MKUltra

Project MKNAOMI

Operation Mockingbird

The list could go on

DARPA LifeLog

Would you have dismissed a governement program that would get people to self admit, post photos and link friends and family, as a conspiracy and no rational person could think our government would spy on us and that we would freely give the government this information.
sorry I am using Wikipedia but ..
“The objective of the LifeLog concept was “to be able to trace the ‘threads’ of an individual’s life in terms of events, states, and relationships”, and it has the ability to “take in all of a subject’s experience, from phone numbers dialed and e-mail messages viewed to every breath taken, step made and place gone”.
when Lifelog was shut down (becase of complaints by libertians) Facebook was given the codes with the government getting access any time.

Right now the agencies are working on enhanced facial recognition, with everyone wearing a mask (for good reason), this is the best proving ground for the new softwear, they “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The agencies did not promote or encourage the use of mask, they have just seized on the opportunity the situation presented.

Some conspiracy are real.

You mention lots of CIA conspiracies. This is what they are paid for. And of course, there are enforced secrecy (prison terms if convicted).
Contrast this with antivax conspiracy theory. “They” know, but are withholding facts. Hitman will enforce. Someone outside for some reason know everything. Can you spot the difference ?
And of course, there are no antivax conspiracy. Antivaxxers certainly do not operate in secrecy. They keep their mouth shut, actually.

And even with all the secrecy and potential jail terms and government resources, we end up finding out about the conspiracies anyway, complete with documented proof.

Heck even Orac believes in some big anti vaxxer conpiracy with some secret organization running the campagin

The Dwoskin passbook account is a secret now?

Some conspiracy are real.

Yes, no one is disputing that. It’s like the first and opening sentence on page 3 of the Conspiracy Theory Handbook that Orac discusses.

Every conspiracy theory has some truth in its story.

No they don’t. Many conspiracy theories are from beginning to end without any truth. The Qanon conspiracy is a pretty good example.

My favourite is of course the Australia conspiracy, which posits Australia does not exist and was invented by the British Empire so they could sail millions of unwanted people off the edge of the world and get rid of them. If you think you have been to Australia, you really haven’t, you have been to a secret location in South America peopled by actors.

Yes people believe this and act as if it is true.

That’s why they don’t let you carry anything up onto the Sydney harbour bridge for the tour. Too much risk of a photo showing the Aztec pyramids in the distance.

Why do apparently different conspiracy/anti science sites all seem to come up with the same tropes? Bill Gates, Hcq, vit D, 5G, Covid just a cold, pcr useless, covid figures overblown etc.

Right.
Orac and other sceptics never reveal vast undercover plots but they do show that there is a lot of money from rich people funding people Del, Fisher etc.. Blaxill and Handley aren’t exactly poor either. Funding anti-vax and Quackademia.has been discussed here. ( see Selz, Samueli, Mercola etc)

Could Scott tell us which conspiracy theories introduced by amateur sleuths and spread on the Internet have ever been proven true?

(crickets)

“even Orac believes in some big anti vaxxer conpiracy with some secret organization running the campagin.”

No, none of the pro-immunization advocates posting here thinks there’s an antivax “conspiracy” run by a secret organization. Antivaccine dumbasses operate in the open, unashamed.

If you want to foil the gummint’s facial recognition program, just wear your mask and they’ll never be able to track you down and forcibly inoculate you.

To the Baconator.

Actually all of the programs I listed were once thought of as conspiracy theories.
The work done by Frank Church in the early 70’s exposed the first 3.
Mr Casey (retired head of the CIA) exposed the Mockingbird, which is still an ongoing operation (just under a different name).
All of those were believed to be tin foil hat stuff.
Edward Snowden showed lots of people what was once thought to be conspiracy theories.
And conspiracy people were able to convince whistle blowers to stop the DARPA LIFELOG project, which was turned over to a private company, thus removing the legal issues.

And just an FYI “Pink Himalayan” salt is tasty stuff

Mr Casey (retired head of the CIA) exposed [Operation] Mockingbird, which is still an ongoing operation (just under a different name).

What would that name be? Oh, and are you sure you don’t mean Project Mockingbird?

Speaking of projects, have you ever dropped a sturdy dose of acid, had your companion bring over The Conet Project just after it was released, and then started checking the shortwave dial at dawn for something to listen to while it was almost gone only to have E17 come booming in out of nowhere?

Ever heard a chicken on a screwed-up Cuban numbers broadcast?

Freaking amateurs.

As i said before, CIA is paid to conspire and can enforce silence. Nothing tin foil with that. Eisenhower was quite proud of PBSUCCESS and Operation Ajax.

Yes, DB.

Brian Deer unearthed Wakefield’s conspiracy to gain fame and profit from fraudulent science, but that was years of investigative reporting that had very little to do with a google search and youtube.

The worst conspiracy is the attempt to shut down Covid Truth videos on YouTube, so better take advantage of this one while you can (Rife healing frequencies for Covid-19).

I didn’t feel any healthier after the video, but instead had this strange urge to buy 10 pounds of pink Himalayan non-GMO salt.

It’s like 4’th order submodalities of tinnitus + (getting startled while clearing out earwax with the 2’nd skinnyiest Easy Out bolt extractor). 3/5 would recommend for calling Death toward people with covid — like that tone that sounds before the Amber alert announces, “Life has been abducted…”

@ DrChris, DrYeti, ChrisP, Dorit, DB, Jim:

While I agree with nearly everything you write, I have some other concerns:

especially, Who is vulnerable? What personal or social characteristics make a person a target for conspiracy theory spreaders?
–there are studies that show strong beliefs in the values of liberty and purity, lack of belief in hierarchies of expertise- everyone can be expert.( for anti-vax) as well as paranoid style of thinking ( CT generally).
You can see how some of these qualities align with particular political ideas like libertarianism ( ‘Each to their own’) or religious fundamentalism ( “Leave God’s perfection alone’)
— from surveying many anti-vax sources, I notice that many of the most adamant supporters have children with ASD/ ID. There seems to be a need to attribute this condition to external causes like vaccines rather than acceptance of it as SBM would ( due to various causes, not vaccines) as it is a stigma to some people.
I assume that not all parents of kids with ID do this- what makes these people vulnerable?
— with general woo/ alt med, as well: there is a need to be ahead of others, to ride the first wave of the great paradigm shifting tsunami. Eventually everyone will know, but they know NOW. I’ve been hearing this ‘vanguardism’ for over 20 years- these revolutions have never come to pass.
.
Alt med prevaricators appeal to this factor. that they are special, more advanced and more perceptive than the average person. Orac’s persistent trolls come to lecture more sophisticated, educated commenters. as if to “Show them all” This may be due to being in their self-perceived lower status socially ( see Barratt QW). Alt med purveyors appeal to this condition: ” Those ‘elitists’ know nothing”. which harkens to the dismissal of expertise and institutions ( above) and aggressive or vicious attacks on us “elites” ( see also political right attacks on same)
— there is often denial if reality no matter how it is presented- studies, consensus, logic, history..

-btw- hello, PGP..

@ Denice–

regarding who is vulnerable, you are right that CT spreaders are good at picking their targets. And in times of fear and doubt (aka 2020) people are more vulnerable to grabbing for the “easy” CT theory rather than facing a reality that bad stuff happens in a not-preventable-in-advance-way. Most families who have a child with ASD don’t believe vaccines cause it, but those few who do are often the most vocal anti-vaxxers out there. When you read over at Age of Autism there are also several very sad articles about how their children can’t get access to their therapies during this pandemic, and that is something they are right about. We’re all taking hits during this pandemic.

Certain types of CTs seem to appeal to people with a selfish or entitled streak. You see it in the way they’re bitter about being “robbed” of the life they were “supposed” to have. It’s the antivaxxers who can’t get past the hypothetical NT child they thought they were supposed to have, or the COVID deniers who fixate on how long they’ve been planning their wedding as if thousands of people are dying just to deny them their bouquet toss.

@Chris Preston – “The liberty values are mostly a US thing.” – sadly, that contagion’s spreading. There are quite a few of the conspiracy-minded here in NZ who regard anything to do with controlling/preventing the spread of covid19 to be an infringement of their liberties. (Some of them are also heavily into QAnon nonsense.)

especially, Who is vulnerable? What personal or social characteristics make a person a target for conspiracy theory spreaders?
–there are studies that show strong beliefs in the values of liberty and purity, lack of belief in hierarchies of expertise- everyone can be expert.( for anti-vax) as well as paranoid style of thinking ( CT generally).
You can see how some of these qualities align with particular political ideas like libertarianism ( ‘Each to their own’) or religious fundamentalism ( “Leave God’s perfection alone’)

The liberty values are mostly a US thing. Elsewhere it is more scepticism of experts. I think you could bundle it all up into people who are more disposed to wishful thinking. People who wish reality is different to what it is and have wished hard enough they believe their view of reality is the real one.

There is certainly also a political/tribal aspect to it, but I think if you are falling for the tribal aspect of politics, you are already disposed to an abundance of wishful thinking. In Australia, I am more likely to see this with the Greens, but in the US it is the Republican Party. It seems to me that they are increasingly becoming about tribal purity and will turn on their own if they think they are insufficiently pure. There also seems to be a need to believe at least 3 conspiracy theories or be judged a RINO. Then that is what the cult of personality does to you, particularly when the personality is hopelessly flawed.

— from surveying many anti-vax sources, I notice that many of the most adamant supporters have children with ASD/ ID. There seems to be a need to attribute this condition to external causes like vaccines rather than acceptance of it as SBM would ( due to various causes, not vaccines) as it is a stigma to some people.
I assume that not all parents of kids with ID do this- what makes these people vulnerable?

As the parent of 2 disabled children who have grown into adults, I have faced this first hand. What makes these people vulnerable is an inability to accept their children for what they are and endless wishing they were perfect. Hence it becomes not their fault their child is disabled, but someone else’s fault.

On this, it is really easy to accept that some faceless person you don’t know is holding you back or interfering with you life for nefarious reasons. You don’t have to face that person and justify why you think the way you do.

Yes I agree that there is a group of conspiracy theorists where it is all about feeling powerful in the situation of having no power rather than about blame. they have secret knowledge of the conspiracy that other people don’t have. In the end, I think this is just another manifestation of the wishful thinking problem.

It is easy to identify the woo-prone after they have been sucked into the whirlpool. Identifying them before hand is harder. Someone who is leaning towards conspiracy theories in one area is indeed ripe for falling into other conspiracy theories.

@ ChrisP:

Attribution theory predicts that people may attribute negative outcomes to external sources ( vaccines, not genes; others’ malfeasance, not luck) in order to save face and preserve self esteem. It’s a form of denial that’s emotionally fuelled. The “perfect child” they wished for was stolen from them.by vaccines/ doctors.

Also, denial of expertise is a way to elevate their own self image and equalise their position. .Amongst the woo-meisters/ anti-vaxxers I survey there is disdain for experts in medicine, psychology.: real experts are insulted, corrected and blamed.
Unbelievable anger and aggressive language towards them.
. .

Yes. For sure. Have you heard the CT about herbicides? Herbicides do absolutely nothing to ones endocrine system or the environment. They are definitely not linked to developmental problems.

Weeds are the enemy and must be eradicated by whatever means. Chemicals belong in the soil, in the food we eat, in our bodies and especially our brains!

Good luck in your battle with weeds but in the end, the weeds ALWAYS win.

https://www.facebook.com/theGRDC/videos/1093725881021139/

I’d have to say I lack the data to speculate. I’m surprised, at times, by who will go all in for baloney. During my MPH we had people rail breathlessly against GMO foods right after going on a diatribe against anti-vaxers.

In my MPH class there was at least one chiropractor and more than on acupuncturist. In one of the early classes some of them spewed so much woo that I wrote to the dean and asked if this was a science and evidence based program. He assured me it was, and the profs were all good-to-great but there were a couple of people where I really wanted to ask “this is antithetical to your world view, why are you here?”

But we had too many group projects for me to risk that.

One thing not touched upon directly is just how well funded a lot of these crank scientists (sic) are, they get a shed load of funds from corporations to sew doubt in actual science, and the politicians these corporations routinely fund (buy?) to get elected to push their interests above the interests of the general population who then go onto set up these hearings as as Dr J got ambushed in. That and just how much money the grifters such as Del and Andy make from their marks mean those who stand for truth in these matters are almost always massively outgunned both in terms of funding, and I might add, on Social Media, an area they aced quite frankly.

I often joke with friends, when was talk about climate change denial, that it’s time for Big Renewable (if there is such a thing) to start outbidding Big Oil for the next generation of politicians, as then we might see some real efforts to do what we know is needed.

@ Jeremy:

Agreed.
Orac has shown that rich people often fund anti-vax and Quackademia. Anti-vax and alt med sell products and have charities:RFK jr doesn’t do this for nothing: he has a law firm that sues companies. Peter Hotez notes links to well-funded right wing sources.

— I try to illustrate how cranks who rail about how SBM is greedy/ too wealthy are rolling in it themselves ( I usually point to sales figures, estates).
— if cranks get basic stuff wrong that every12 year old should know, we must point it out.

and I might add, on Social Media, an area they aced quite frankly.

This is indeed a problem. If you are unashamed at how big the lie you are telling is, you are going to ace social media. It is like blokes talking bulldust over a few beers at the pub, the bigger lies always get more listeners.

What about the biggest conspiracy theory of this century.

That the Ruskies hacked the 2016 elections.

Over 30% of democrats, still believe that the Russians hacked into voting machines and changed votes. I will repeat that, 30% of registered democrat voters still think the Russians hacked, tampered with voting machines, and you wonder why people believe the vote of 2020 was tampered with.

People still believe that Donald Trump colluded with the russians to hack the elections, but after 3 years of investigation and 35 million dollars Mueller couldn’t find any evidence of that.

I still remember a couple of prominent people in the media publishing/reporting the “conspiracy” that George Bush the 1st, flew on an SR-71 “Blackbird” to make a secret deal with the Irainians in 1980.

Did russia try to influence that election, yes absolutely.
Just as the US influenced the russian revolution of 1989, we have overthrown elected governments in Iraq, Afganistan, South Vietnam, Chile etc.
We even tried to influence the Britex. And we are going to find that the Chinese tried to influence the 2020 elections.

So which conspiracy theory do you believe in.

Tiny Tim read the whole sentence.
“to make a secret deal with the Irainians in 1980.”

The Russian spend more money trying to influence our domestic gas and oil production, thru one of their pass thru companies based in the Bermuda thru Klein Ltd. then on to the Sea Change Foundation. In 13 years the russians oil and gas companies have give Klein/SeaChange about 480 million dollars to finance anti oil and fracking lobbying.

If any of you had actually taken the time to read the report by the intelligence section of our government, published on the 6th of January 2017
“Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”
This was from Annex A of the report.

“runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability”

This was the same report that was given to congress which launched the Russian’s “hacked our election” investigation.

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

But I would bet not one person here read the report but only listened to the news media about what the report said.

Guess who help lobby for wind and solar power. Big oil, suprised? Three reasons,

Its a huge tax write off. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Warren Buffet.
Public relations.
The ability to sell more oil and gas.
The big oil companies know that wind and solar are intermittent power sources and require a back up system (gas powered turbines) that can be producing in seconds when the wind quits blowing or the sun doesn’t shine. One power company is building a 1,000 megawtts utility scale solar system, (the was announced with much fanfare) what was hidden in the back pages of the story was they were also having to build a 1,000 megawatt simple-cycle combustion turbines and more reciprocting internal combustion engine as back ups).

But I am just a tin foil hat person.

But I am just a tin foil hat person.

Because you are right on some points doesn’t mean you don’t wear one such hat.

We all wear blinders, out of our upbringing,, habits, life experience. Thanks for the reminder to check ours. Will you check yours?

Ahh! What was that real ‘conspiracy’ again?? Cough, Cough Enron??

https://youtu.be/Rwqc4V6Pd70?t=131
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-28/solar-and-wind-cheapest-sources-of-power-in-most-of-the-world

Batteries and novel stored gravity devices {giant stacked blocks and pumped water} are getting pretty good for interim storage.

Trump, without having a clue what it is, bemoaned a dem threat to ‘fracking’. It pollutes aquifers and creates small earthquakes but that’s ok because it generates a few more drops of oil that no one is going to want soon.

The buildout of solar, wind, and maintainance thereof promises good, well-paying jobs long into the future.

Actually Mueller said that Russians interfered for Trump, but without his knowledge. To subtle thing for political argument, obviously.
Buffet indeed builds wind farms, but I would like get source of your citation. An petroleum industry astroturf website ? Sounds like one.

Aarno

here’s you sites. All crack pot big oil sites. and the peer reviewed research on the back up needs for solar and wind.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/06/04/big-oil-is-investing-billions-in-renewable-energy.aspx

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-04/shell-leads-big-oil-in-the-race-to-invest-in-clean-energy-tech

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301421518300983

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032117312546

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516301379

You will also have to address the use of SF6 in the production and upkeep on wind turbines. SF6 is 23,900 times the GHG that CO2 is.

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_sf6/

And NF3 (nitrogen trifluoride) that is used in the productiong of solar panels which is 17,200 times the green house gas that CO2 is and has a 700 life span.

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/hats/gases/NF3.html

NOAA has been monitoring the NF3 & SF6 rapid rise for about 20 years and are becoming very concerned about it.

Here is the site for Warrens quote.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/nancy-pfotenhauer/2014/05/12/even-warren-buffet-admits-wind-energy-is-a-bad-investment

@Scott Allen
Oil companies are investing in renewable energy. Big climate change conspiracy or hedging bets ? It is yours to decide.
Solar panel manufacturing releases green house gases. Fossil energy plants release them when they are operating. What takes longer time ?
What Warren Buffet tells to shareholders is here:
https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2019ltr.pdf
He says that wind farms allowed his firm avoid raising customer’s electricity bills. Seems more like corporate communications to me. A hint to you: if a site speaks about “Big Wind”, it probably is not trustworthy.

What about the biggest conspiracy theory of this century.

(sigh)
Yes, Scott, you have people in the left who believe in conspiracy theories.
I should know, my French compatriots, especially if left-wing, are always ready to believe any CT involving Yankees.
So? We don’t deny it. Not our fault that the people currently in charge of the US are right-wing AND science-denialists/CT believers and spreaders.

Now, as to your example…
Biggest? Try denial of climate change, or right now the Q-Anon stuff. Pretty sure that for some parts, we run in the 30%, too.
Also, Benghazi. Amazing the amount of resources and playback time this one has achieved.
Umpf. Actually, be a little less US-centrist. Some oldies CT are still pretty much widespread, worldwide. The blood libel CT is still awfully kicking.

As an aside, the Mueller investigation did end up with a dozen people charged at various levels. Hardly an investigation without results.
Funny enough, a lot of these convicted people were close business friends or collaborators with Trump. But, eh, I cannot blame Jesus for having Judas at his table. Could happen to the best people. Now, having a dozen Judas, and them working for the guy instead of betraying him…
Anyway, not fully the results some of us may have wished for, granted (1). So?

(1) While I may have tended this way at some point, I changed my mind. Such an organized hacking would take competence. Oh, the Russian spy agencies are competent enough. Witness Maria Butina, the Russian lady who insinuated herself deeply into the NRA leadership. A masterful demonstration of a good use of a Russian femme fatale. A redhead, to boot. John Le Carré and Ian Fleming must be jealous, they cannot write stuff like this anymore, too stereotypical.
It’s not them which are the weakest link. My thoughts followed a very similar path as the one described by Anonymous Coward, above.

None of those charged by Mueller were charged with crimes related to the “Russian Hack”. Most were process crimes, you need to read the book “Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent”.

Mueller had a history of targeting the innocent, with the anthrax investigation, Steven Hatfill was the subject of the “Mueller Treatment” for years before being exonerated (but spending his life’s savings in attorney fees, just like General Flynn).

Its why you never ever talk to a federal agent.

the people that Mueller indicted will never be charged as most are living in Russia, they are just “Ham sandwiches”. The one that they could actual “arrest” AKA: charge, the Mueller team dropped the charges. “Prosecutors Drop Mueller Charges Against Russian Firm Weeks Before Trial”
https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2020/03/16/prosecutors-move-to-dismiss-mueller-charges-against-russian-firm/?slreturn=20201110193717

Yet I would guess that Hunter Biden and James Biden tax issues don’t bother you.
and probably Eric Swalwell’s (house intelligence committee) china doll aka: honey pot and the fact that hundreds of US agents in China have been killed or disappeared since Swalwell started his affair with Fang Fang or DiFi’s chinese agent/driver doesn’t worry you either. but I am a conspiracy, tin foil hat person.

Yet I would guess that Hunter Biden and James Biden tax issues don’t bother you.

You know, the tax issues of a lot of people don’t bother me. Especially when they are citizen of a foreign country.
When they are country leaders, I tend to be a bit more attentive.
When a judicial investigation is started, now you get my attention. Come back to me at that point.
I’m sorry I cannot pay more attention to your grifters – or supposed so -, my country is currently putting on trial one of ours for corruption, a former president. Guy deserves it.

probably Eric Swalwell’s

Ah, this is the latest spy stuff scandal, I take it? I just saw an headline. I’m afraid I’m not up to date, I haven’t had time to read on this one. Bit busy, here. And again, not my country.
Maybe later, during the week-end.

Now, why do I have the feeling your arguments are basically “both sides do it, stop looking at this side and just hammer at that side”?
I’m open to the idea of hammering scoundrels from both sides, you know. And so are most people here.

Do you really believe that a member of the house intelligence committee knows identities of agents ? If so, someone has messed up things royally.

Aaron

“Do you really believe that a member of the house intelligence committee knows identities of agents ?”

He didn’t have to know the agents by name. only the intel they produced, the intelligence community routinely gives their field contacts false information to see which is leaked back. Swalwell just leak what he had been briefed on and his ‘honey pot’ sent it back to her contacts and they put 2 and 2 together.
You should read about “Juan Pujol García” aka: Garbo during world war II, he fed the Germans false leads which the germans gave to their network in England, MI-5 was able to identify all of the German agents and their contacts.
We did the same to the Japanese when they tried to attack Midway. Commander Joseph Rochefort sent out false messages which lead to the total breaking of JN-25 code which lead to the defeat of Japan at midway.

@scott

Re: Eric Swalwell’s (house intelligence committee) china doll

OK, I had some time. Interesting story, indeed.

Although your imputation that Eric Swalwell spilled a lot of beans seem unevidenced, so far. Still concerning that he may have let things slip out, before he wised up.
More precisely:

A statement from Swalwell’s office provided to Axios said: “Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”

What happened: Amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing.

Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a current U.S. intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years” (OK, or so Swalwell claims).
I’m starting to seriously think you did sleep through the last 4 or 5 years.

@Scott Allen Giving so much data that an agent can be recognized from it is same thing that giving out agent’s name. Any spy agency would avoid it. Analyst would make a briefing.
You are slightly confused about Pujol. Check Operation Fortitude.

None of those charged by Mueller were charged with crimes related to the “Russian Hack”.

Intrepid reader: Paul Manafort.
Hi.

I’m thinking that I should reveal my relationship with Chan-Chan to Bill Bar so that he can more effectively release the Kraken {very powerful, though they don’t live long outside salt water}. Me and him exchanged lots of material, a lot. And now I think His elite teams of assasins are coming for me because I did not dissiminate that fast enough.

Ohh, Chan-Chan; You still infiltrate my heart:

It’s obvious now that he was just pumping me for information. I don’t know what to do as the State Department was incredulous. I guess I just need to stop thinking about him as toilet paper is scarce again…it felt so real.

@Aarno,

One of Trump’s first blunders was revealing Israeli intelligence to the Russians, thereby compromising an intelligence source.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/19/israeli-intelligence-furious-over-trumps-loose-lips-russia-iran-syria/

And that was only a few months after he had been castigating Hillary Clinton for using a private email server for her official State Department business (because the official servers weren’t secure enough against Russian hacking)..

I remember joking to myself that “If I (Trump) had secret information, I wouldn’t put it on an extra secure server, I would just call Vlad up and tell him directly.. Then I wouldn’t have to protect it any more.” And to my dismay if not surprise, Trump did exactly that.

I suspect that afterwards, the CIA, DHS, and FBI were more circumspect in their contributions to the daily intelligence briefings. And of course Trump hardly took a look at those anyway.

No one said they hacked the election. They INFLUENCED it. They meddled in it. Don’t believe it? Think it didn’t matter? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you? Maybe you’d rather apologize for foreign interference as long as your “side” wins and it “hurts” the right people than accept what that says about you as a person. It wasn’t a hoax. It wasn’t a conspiracy theory. It HAPPENED. Facts matter, my friend.

Yes they do believe that the Russian hacked the votes.
“A fresh YouGov survey finds that fully two-thirds of Democratic voters now say it’s “definitely” or “probably” true that the government of Russia tampered with vote tallies in 2016″.
https://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2019/03/04/poll-twothirds-of-democrats-believe-baseless-russia-conspiracy-theory-n2542496

This number/theme was confirmed by the Harris poll taken in April of 2020.

I don’t want my government interferring in anyones voting and I’m sure I don’t want the Russians or the Chinese interferring in ours.

We are going to find that the Chinese have done a lot worse than the Russians ever thought of doing. DiFi chinese driver and Salwell’s lover are just tips of the iceberg, we are finding more and more researchers and universities have taken Chinese communist money and the Chinese government has infiltrated those same universities, researchers and businesses with military intelligence agents who steal our information. Google and Facebook have caved to the Chinese demand into censoring the way those companies operate all in the name of money.
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/harvard-university-professor-and-two-chinese-nationals-charged-three-separate-china-related

But you know tin foil hat.

We are going to find that the Chinese have done a lot worse

(sigh)
Were you asleep the last decade?
Chinese citizens spying on Western assets and the disregarding of intellectual property has been a serious and thorny political issue for at least ten years, if not twenty.
And as for the digital Great Wall… Yeah, we know. Again, it was not done yesterday.
Any other ongoing atrocities from that region you would like to suddenly notice?

You are being highly dishonest.
I may be off my meds, but I was serious and accurate when nudging you against using strawmen.

Yet a large percentage of republican voters believed that the only reason Biden won was due to voter fraud too. And that Obama wasn’t American and that Trump wasn’t an embarassment. There’s no monopoly of stupidity in a particular political side.

@Scott Allen Your link is a golden oldie. A guy worked for a Chinese university and for Pentagon, and did not disclose enough data

I’ve been interested in quackery for nearly forty years (remember Adelle Davis?) and reading Orac since the usenet days. This summer, I watched a friend follow Q down the Qanon rabbit hole and I didn’t know what to do. I’ve tried gently presenting the truth, but I’m getting no where. It’s so sad.

When friends and loved ones come around to talk of their journey through the Qanon rabbit hole, I find a little adrenochrome makes the hours go, and go, and go — I keep mine safely tucked away inside the foyer soundproofed Wayfair tallboy.

“Well, what about MK Ultra?” is generally at or near the top of the list of True Conspiracies that conspiracy theorists cite.* Trouble is, neither that or other secret government programs (CT’ers can’t tell the difference between “secret” and “conspiracy”) were unraveled by breathless amateurs of the kind who infest the Internet. Typically, an inside informant and/or investigative reporter was involved.

About the only example I can recall of a real conspiracy exposed by amateurs (and played out in what passed for social media at that time) was France’s Dreyfus Affair.

*another classic cited by CT’ers is the Tuskegee Experiment**, which wasn’t a conspiracy, unless you think “conspirators” would be dumb enough to publish their results in medical journals. Unbelievably, the medicos who perpetrated that horror seemed to be proud of their work.
**hilariously, a CT’er on a message board I frequent once referred to this alleged conspiracy as involving the ”Tuskegee Airmen”.

(note: I tried to post this last night but it didn’t go through, possible due to a Conspiracy of some kind. We’ll see if the second attempt succeeds.)

The photo of Andrew Wakefield from Dr. G.’s Twitter post (see above) has been nagging at me. Where have I seen a doctor with that ghastly deathbed pallor and dark circles/bags under the eyes before?

Then it came to me – Wakefield’s pic bears an uncanny resemblance to the Abominable Dr. Phibes, as brilliantly portrayed by Vincent Price.

https://images.app.goo.gl/5oy1c2Ut9uYE1hUW9

Speaking of denial, more inconvenient coincidences like Bell’s Palsy, allergic reactions and death…it just couldn’t be the vaccine! Darn these inconvenient coincidences! Keep moving forward with it. They’ve already manufactured millions of doses. Let’s see what happens with the general public during the 4th phase of the clinical trials when giving it to granny and grandpa. They will be relieved they won’t have to mask up and be thrilled to have visitors again. Oh wait, they will still need to mask up and socially distance? The vaccine might not be effective for everyone? This is all so confusing.

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-pfizer-health-concerns/fact-check-clarifying-claims-around-pfizer-vaccine-deaths-and-side-effects-idUSKBN28K2R6

From your link:
“These claims are partly false. Six people did die during the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials, but only two of them were given the vaccine. The other four were given a safe placebo solution of salt and water”
If one takes you seriously, vaccine protected against death. Of this actually is a coincidence.

“The other four were given a safe placebo solution of salt and water” Of course they were. I said their deaths were an inconvenient coincidence. I’m sure PFIZER is telling the truth. PFIZER has NEVER been dishonest in the past in their business practices. We’ll just have to wait and see how granny and grandpa do with the the 4th phase of the clinical trial.

https://www.corp-research.org/pfizer

NW, can you think of anyone here who gives a flying f*ck about you whether you screech about not taking this vaccine?

FWIW, the Pfizer vaccine more or less officially entered Phase 4 a few days ago when the first members of the general public were vaccinated.
https://news.lvhn.org/covid-19-vaccines-the-clinical-trials-and-what-we-know-right-now/

Phase 4 – After a vaccine is approved for general use, it may enter phase 4. This phase consists of ongoing surveillance to observe how the vaccine performs in everyday scenarios.

This surveillance includes VAERS, the VSD, and other methods.

After an approval vote yesterday, the FDA was preparing EUA authorization for Saturday, but POTUS stomped his feet and insisted it get signed off on by today. As if that will get an people actually vaccinated sooner. Meanwhile critical funding for the states to actually hire people and purchase needed supplies to administer the vaccines is being held up in Congressional squabbling.

Astra Zeneca plans to enroll 60,000 people in its worldwide trials.
https://www.astrazeneca.com/media-centre/press-releases/2020/azd1222hlr.html

I wonder how many people NW or SA expect would die of random causes in the 2 year monitoring period independent of both the vaccine and the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

but POTUS stomped his feet and insisted it get signed off on by today. As if that will get an people actually vaccinated sooner. Meanwhile critical funding for the states to actually hire people and purchase needed supplies to administer the vaccines is being held up in Congressional squabbling.

Isn’t that something? #DiaperDon attempting to show his toadie ship of fools that he wields the power. “but muh LEGACY” — that astoundingly dumb/slow lardass can’t get out of his own way.

“Pushing up authorization is not expected to change the timing of delivery of doses to vaccination sites or their readiness to give people shots”

Well if you are a pro vax person they would look on the bright side the vaccine and trials, it showed it worked.
Those people will not get the Covid nor will they give it to someone.

Those people will not get the Covid nor will they give it to someone.

Could you nudge this mush into the realm of having a coherent English-language payload?

No nards.

if those 6 people are DEAD they can’t get the Covid and those 6 DEAD people can’t spread the Covid.

it’s a win/win for Pfizer

Seriously, deaths during a clinical trial are very bad for the sponsoring company. Your product could be rejected.

In addition to Beth Clarkson being wrong about infant risk of contracting hepatitis B and wrong about the U.S. being the only nation on earth giving hep B vaccine to newborns, we have this:

“We could just as easily make that assumption (concerning asymptomatic adult carriers potentially infecting children) about other vaccine preventable diseases that are more easily transmitted between household members, but we don’t.”

Hepatitis B differs from other infectious diseases that adults might unknowingly pass to infants. Hepatitis B is 1) incurable, 2) infants and children are more likely than adults to develop chronic hepatitis B infection, 3) hepatitis B may eventually lead to devastating liver failure, and 3) hep B is a known risk factor for cancer.

Either Beth is remarkably badly informed on this subject, or it’s the latest dishonest manifestation of Just Asking Questions.

Not to mention there are plenty of PSAs about making sure grandparents get a pertussis booster before spending time with a new baby. So, actually Beth, they do that too.

Given that it’s Beth, I know what I’m voting for.

Actually, I did get that pertussis booster not long before my granddaughter was born. Did you vote the right way?

@ Narad asks, “NW, can you think of anyone here who gives a flying f*ck about you whether you screech about not taking this vaccine?”

Aw Cheeky! You’re not so cheeky today but you still make me laugh. It’s not like I come here for any kind of support…silly : P

Have you seen this? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2526142/

Good day and good health to you.

Very interesting. Thanks for the link! “Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most successful parasites on earth.”

I wonder how many RI commenters are infected…the more cats one has or is in contact with, the more likely they are to have the infection. Ew. Gross.

Good day to you and good health.

Nats, you have to forgive “Nonards” he is french, he still hasn’t figured out the “nonards” yet.

Like your style, you sit back and watch, then jump with both feet.

@ scott

Nats, you have to forgive “Nonards” he is french

I’m flattered, but you are confusing me with Narad.
I’m the obnoxious French here

Well, one of them, there are indeed a few of us. Including at least one French Québecois. But Narad isn’t one of them.
Although, if they are willing, I will gladly grant Narad honorary French status.

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